Guide to Buddhism: Step 9 – Practicing Mindfulness

What does mindfulness mean?

Mindfulness is presence of mind, attentiveness or awareness. In other words, mindfulness means to keep the mind in the present moment without being distracted by a cloudy mind.

Mindfulness teaches us to truly live in each moment.

If we can learn to constantly focus our attention, then we have the gist of the Buddhism. Buddhism teaches us that we should have mindfulness at all times, not just while we are meditating or concentrating.

We should practice mindfulness from the moment that we wake up each morning until the moment that we fall asleep at night.

Why is mindfulness so important to Buddhism?

Mostly importantly, practicing mindfulness is an absolute requirement for you to find lasting inner peace. For inner peace to arise, there must be mindfulness at all times.

Put simply, mindfulness is how we learn to control our minds. Mindfulness teaches us how to protect our mind, like a moat around a castle, so that our minds don’t constantly chase after and fixate on all of sense objects and other attachments.

As we discussed in Buddhism: The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Religion, you are responsible for protecting your own mind. Remember: our more valuable possession isn’t a car, watch, house, savings or investments; our most valuable possession in the entire world is our mind.

Given the enormous value your mind has, you should guard and protect it through mindfulness.

Aside from being a critical step on Buddha’s path to enlightenment, mindfulness also serves us well in other helpful ways.

Since mindfulness teaches you to focus and be less distracted, you are less likely to have accidents such as tripping on a step, dropping a plate, or getting into a car accident.

It’s clear that anyone we see texting or drinking while driving isn’t practicing mindfulness and isn’t on a path towards lasting happiness.

Mindfulness can also serve you well in you work life as a mindful worker is sure to be more efficient and make fewer mistakes at work.

As to our business and personal relationships, mindfulness create stronger bonds by teaching you to actively listen instead of always half thinking about something else.

Our minds are usually distracted and cloudy

Without mindfulness, the experience of daily life is overrun by our thoughts, ideas and desires.

As a result, our minds are never still, peaceful or concentrated. We barely see the true nature of things because of the dense layers of ideas and views, like the moon through a layer of clouds.

The Buddha calls these embellishments since they block out the true phenomena.  So long as there are these embellishment, we will know things only at a distance, not as they really is.

The clouded, embellished mind distorts reality.

Thus, what we know as the final object of perception (what we use as the basis for our values, plans, and actions) is a patchwork product, not the original article.

The product is not sheer fantasy, but it takes the immediate, real experience and adds fictional embellishments that are invented by the mind.

How do you practice mindfulness?

In the practice mindfulness, the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event.

The task is simply to note whatever comes up just as it is occurring, riding the changes of events in the way a surfer rides the waves on the sea.

The whole process is a way of coming back into the present, of standing in the here and now without slipping away. You probably think that your mind is always in the present moment, but it isn’t.

Only seldom do we become aware of the present in the precise way required by the practice of mindfulness.

Yet the kind of awareness involved in mindfulness differs profoundly from the kind of awareness in our usual mode of consciousness.

All consciousness involves awareness in the sense of a knowing or experiencing of any object. The goal is mindful awareness, where the mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention.

This means a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment.

Unlike sitting meditation where you practice concentration, you can and should practice mindfulness any time and any where.

Mindfulness should begin when you wake up in the morning and continue until you fall asleep at night. All that is requires is for you to be aware and attentive to your main task while making sure your mind doesn’t wander.

Regardless of whether you are making tea, doing laundry or any one of the hundreds of daily tasks you do, you should focus and concentrate your mind on the task.

Buddha taught that we should practice mindfulness as it relates to the following four aspects:

  • 1) we should have awareness of our body, including our arms, legs, etc.;
  • 2) we should have awareness of our feelings, including whether a feeling is neutral, pleasant or unpleasant;
  • 3) we should have awareness of as to our consciousnesses; and
  • 4) we should have awareness with regard to objects that we encounter

Mindfulness is more detail

Mindfulness brings to light experience in its pure immediacy.

It reveals the object as it is before it has been plastered over with paint, overlaid with interpretations.

To practice mindfulness is thus not so much of doing but of undoing: not thinking, not judging, not associating, not planning, not imagining, and not wishing.

These “doings” of ours are modes of interference, ways the mind manipulates experience and tries to establish dominance.

Mindfulness undoes the knots and tangles of these “doings” by simply noting.

It does nothing but note, watching each occasion of experience as it arises, stands, and passes away. In the watching there is no room for clinging; there is only sustained contemplation of experience in its bare immediacy, carefully and precisely and persistently. Mindfulness exercises a powerful grounding function.

Mindfulness anchors the mind securely in the present, so it does not float away into the past and future with memories, regrets, fears, and hopes.

When mindfulness is strong, the mind stays with its object and penetrates it characteristics deeply; it does not wander and merely skim the surface as the mind destitute of mindfulness does.

The art of mindfulness serves as the guard charged with the responsibility of making sure that the mind does not slip away from the object to lose itself in random undirected thoughts.

Mindfulness has the task to observe and to discern phenomena with utmost precision until their fundamental characteristics are brought to light.

Awareness is kept at the level of bare attention: one watches each feeling that arises, seeing it merely as a feeling, a bare mental event.

The task is simply to note the feelings quality, its tone of pleasure, pain, or neutrality.

But as practice advances, as one goes on nothing each feeling, letting it go and noting the next, the focus shifts from the qualities of feelings to the process of feeling itself.

Next: Step 10: The Importance of Meditation